The beaches and ancient ruins in the land of the Aztecs and Mayans are bound to have culinary attractions. This is what Mexican cuisine should be called in terms of the significance of its historical traditions. It is not for nothing that UNESCO decided to add national culinary recipes to the lists of the World Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Where to start a hungry tourist and what to try in Mexico first? There are several dishes in Mexican cuisine that are often called the country’s calling cards.
Food in Mexico
Like everywhere else in Latin America, food in Mexico is a special cult. Mexicans are accustomed to meeting friends and family at a large table where their traditional food is always present. Especially revered here are meat, snacks and sauces from a variety of fresh vegetables, hot seasonings and spices, thick soups and desserts. The list of popular drinks is sure to include black coffee, hot chocolate and the unchanging tequila, which is produced in hundreds of different types in Mexico.
Mexican cuisine was formed as a result of a fusion of the traditions of the Indian tribes inhabiting this region and the Spanish colonialists who came to Central America at the end of the 15th century. As a result of the merger, the very exotic mixture turned out, which, quite rightly, was elevated to the rank of national treasure.
TOP 10 Mexican dishes
It is worth starting our excursion into Mexican cuisine with “tortilla”, because it forms the basis of many national dishes, and no Mexican can imagine his meal without it – neither a baby nor a deep old man. Tortilla is a small, thin flatbread baked in Mexico most often from corn flour. It was prepared by the Indians who inhabited Central America in the pre-Columbian era, but the name “tortilla” was given to the flat cakes by the conquistadors.
The traditional dish of the indigenous peoples of Mexico seemed to the Spaniards similar to their native omelet, which was called that. For the Indian, “tortilla” served as a plate, and a spoon, and, in fact, food. A variety of filling options are wrapped in it, sauces are picked up with it and pieces of meat are held, and at the end of dinner they are eaten. Tortillas are baked over an open fire, and the process can be a separate attraction for tourists in resort restaurants.
The second pillar that forms the basis of the national cuisine of Mexico is salsa sauce. More precisely, a family of sauces that serve as seasonings for main dishes and act as appetizers, along with chips, preceding the main part of the meal.
Usually the basis of “salsa” is made up of finely chopped fresh or boiled tomatoes or vegetable physalis, called tomatillo in Mexico. Spices and spices are added to the sauce, placing a variety of flavoring accents. Most often in “salsa” appear onions, garlic, hot chili and jalapenos, coriander and fresh herbs.
The national cuisine of Mexico would not be so bright if it were not for the guacamole sauce, which even symbolizes the current flag of the country. The basis of “guacamole” is an avocado or “alligator pear”. In recent years, this fruit has attracted considerable interest among followers of a healthy diet, due to the unique combination of nutrients in its pulp. To prepare “guacamole”, ripe avocado is chopped, tomatoes and onions are added to the puree, filling the mass with lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper. The resulting traditional version of the sauce contains the three colors of the Mexican flag – green, white and red.
There are several options for the preparation of “guacamole”, which the true adherents of national traditions do not recognize too much. And yet, in some catering establishments in tourist Mexico, you can find a sauce with pieces of celery, garlic, bell pepper and, horror, mayonnaise!
Pico de Gaio sauce
The classic Mexican sauce “pico de gayo”, the name of which, translated from Spanish, means “cock’s beak”, has no less patriotic look. The dish is aged in the red-white-green colors of the national flag, and the products used in its preparation help to provide such a palette.
The sauce contains fresh tomatoes, onions and green chili peppers. Pico de Gaio is most often seasoned with lime juice. Sometimes housewives deviate from the classic recipe and put pieces of radish, cucumber or avocado puree in the sauce. In restaurants, you can find both classic recipes and variations – it all depends on the region and its proximity to tourist routes.
When ordering in a Mexican restaurant, pay attention to the “nachos”. A traditional appetizer is usually served first and often as a welcome compliment from the establishment, so that the client does not get too bored while waiting for the main course. Nachos includes a solid serving of tortilla corn chips with a variety of sauces. Sometimes chips are served by sprinkling with pre-melted cheese.
This is exactly what the first performed nachos dish looked like, which was the purest improvisation. This happened in 1943, when a group of American women appeared in a Mexican restaurant near the border with the United States just before closing. The head waiter did not lose his head and came up with a dish on the go, which then not only entered the permanent menu, but also spread throughout the country. Now it is difficult to imagine that you can visit Mexico without trying nachos.
Tortilla is the main ingredient in the traditional hot dish chilakiles, which in the Aztec language means “soaked in chili”. This dish in Mexico is worth trying for spicy lovers: it is generously seasoned with chili.
Pieces of “tortilla”, cut in a triangle shape, are filled with “salsa”, which contains more chili than the rest. Then the dish is heated over low heat, and the flat cakes literally absorb the pungency and aroma of the sauce. Chilakiles adds chicken, beef, eggs, avocado, beans, sour cream – different products, depending on the region and the chef’s preferences. Usually this dish is present in the morning menu of Mexican restaurants: it is customary to eat “chilaquiles” for breakfast here.
Wheat tortillas with wrapped filling are popular in the South of the United States as well, although this dish is still Mexican. True, corn cakes are used in his homeland. As a filling for “fajita” they take grilled meat and vegetables cooked in the same place. The meat is cut into thin strips, flavored with sour cream or “guacamole”, often accentuated with cheese or chopped tomatoes.
If all together seems like overkill, don’t worry! Fajita is a dish constructor. The restaurant will bring you cakes and filling separately, and you yourself can wrap up whatever you want in a “tortilla”. By the way, the name comes from the Spanish word for “strip” and indicates the way the meat ingredients are cut.
Unlike “fajita” with “burrito”, it is impossible to improvise: the chef prepares this dish from beginning to end, but the client’s wishes can be taken into account when ordering.
Burrito is a Mexican shawarma: a filling wrapped in a thin tortilla, which contains many of the typical ingredients of traditional Mexican cuisine. In the “tortilla” you can put chopped beef or chicken, pre-fried on the grill, add mashed stewed beans and finely chopped tomatoes to the meat, season all this with mashed avocado with onions and generously pepper and salt at the end. The burrito is accompanied by salsa made from hot chili peppers or jalapenos.
If you see a dish called “chimichanga” on the restaurant menu, order and try it! This is also a burrito, but additionally deep-fried.
If this did not seem enough to you, and your soul requires you to continue tasting the dishes of the national cuisine of Mexico, ask them to bring the “enchilada”. The translation of the name from Spanish leaves no chance for fans of dietary dishes – “enchilada” means “seasoned with chili sauce”, and only fearless explorers of any exotic should take the risk of trying it.
The structure of the dish is similar to the previous ones: meat stuffing with vegetables is wrapped in a “tortilla”, although there are options with eggs or even vegetarian fillings. Then the “tortillas” rolled into rolls are deep-fried or simply in a frying pan with butter. Ready “enchiladas” are sprinkled with cheese and seasoned with sauce and sent to bake in the oven or oven. But that’s not all! The final serving is a special sauce called “mole”. It is made from a mixture of several peppers and cocoa – a kind of hot chocolate that burns fire in your mouth. Rice is often used as a side dish for enchiladas, which can slightly reduce the degree of pungency of a traditional Mexican dish.
First courses in Mexico are no less common than flatbreads, and the classic example of such a soup is the pozole stew. It is based on only two ingredients – meat and corn. The broth is made from pork or chicken, and the grains are processed by boiling in a special way at first, allowing you to exfoliate the scales. Then the meat, broth and grains are combined and continue to cook. As a result, the corn kernels burst, giving the soup a thick and creamy texture.
The classic “pozole” is called white and is eaten without adding anything else. The only addition on the table is tomato sauce, which can be used to season the chowder a little right on the plate. In the restaurant, the classic Mexican soup is usually served along with other products – cabbage, onions, avocado, pepper, lime juice and even cheese, so that the guest can season his own chowder and create his own version of the “pozole”.